U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk caused a major brouhaha over a piece he published in Foreign Policy Journal last week.
"A Commentary on the Marathon Murders," which appeared on April 19, suggested that the Boston bombings were linked to America’s Middle East policy, particularly as it relates to Israel.
"… [A]s long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment, those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy," he wrote, adding, "Some of us naively hoped that Obama’s Cairo speech of 2009 was to be the beginning of … a process of renewal… acknowledg[ing] that relations with the Islamic world needed fundamental moves by the U.S. government for the sake of reconciliation, including the adoption of a far more balanced approach to the Palestine/Israel impasse. But as the months passed, what became evident, especially given the strong pushback by Israel and its belligerent leader, Bibi Netanyahu, were a series of disappointing reactions by Obama … Now at the start of his second presidential term, it seems that Obama has given up altogether, succumbing to the Beltway ethos of Israel First."
Yes, asserted Falk, the United States needs to engage in "self-scrutiny," because until "this process of reassessment occurs … America’s military prowess and the abiding confidence of its leaders in hard power diplomacy makes the United States a menace to the world and to itself."
This is merely a morsel from the radical feast laid out by Falk in his piece, which is why it elicited so much criticism, both in the Jewish community and in the Obama administration. Even U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on Tuesday tweeted her outrage: "Someone who spews such vitriol has no place at the U.N. Past time for him to go."
Falk’s response to the outcry was to publish a "Clarifying Boston Marathon Post" on his blog.
"… I had no intention whatsoever to connect any dots as to whether there was a causal linkage between what the U.S. or Israel have done in the world and what happened in Boston," he wrote on Thursday. "My only effort was to suggest that in addition to grieving and bringing the perpetrators to justice, this could also become an occasion for collective self-scrutiny as a nation and as a people."
This is not a retraction. Nor does it suffice to let its author off the hook.
But let’s not kid ourselves: Falk’s positions, and his anti-American and pro-radical Islam activism, have been an open book throughout his career.
In various official capacities, he has called Israel an "apartheid state;" compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to Nazism; accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing;" and justified Islamic suicide bombings as a legitimate method of resistance.
These constitute but a tiny fraction of the egregious misrepresentations, outright lies and extremist views that Falk has disseminated over the past several decades. That the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed him in 2008 to a six-year term as a "special rapporteur" on behalf of the Palestinians is therefore as fitting as it is no surprise.
What bears reminding anyone who has forgotten, however, is Falk’s track record on the Islamic Republic.
In January 1979, Falk -- a professor of international law at Princeton -- accompanied former Attorney-General Ramsey Clark and Don Luce, a prominent member of "Clergy and Laity Concerned" (established in 1965 by the National Council of Churches to "struggle against American imperialism and exploitation in just about every corner of the world") on a private, eight-day fact-finding mission to Iran. At the end of the trip, the trio stopped over in France to meet Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had been living in exile for 14 years.
Right around this time, the ousted, cancer-ridden Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, fled the country. Two weeks later, Khomeini returned to take over the country. When asked by reporters on his flight how he felt about coming home to his native land, Khomeini said that he "felt nothing," indicating that the spread of Islam was what mattered to him, not the borders of his birthplace.
That was on February 1.
On February 16, Falk published an op-ed in The New York Times called "Trusting Khomeini." In the piece, Falk waxed poetic about the Muslim cleric, disabusing readers of the notion that the oft-regarded "mystery man" was someone to be feared either by Iranians or by the West. "The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary, and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false."
Falk went on to laud the progressive and benevolent nature of Shiite Islam. "What is distinctive, perhaps, about this religious orientation," he wrote, "is its concern with resisting oppression and promoting social justice."
He concluded that, "Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on non-violent tactics, Iran may provide us with a desperately needed model of humane governance for a third world country."
Well, we saw what the Islamic Republic of Iran’s "humane governance" looked like. We watched as Khomeini backed the "students" -- among them Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- who took over the U.S. Embassy and held dozens of its staff hostage for 444 days. And we witnessed President Carter trying to negotiate their release by "understanding the grievances" of the Iranian regime.
Indeed, no matter what the circumstances, some things, as some people, never change. Falk is one such person. That neither he nor his false prophecies have been totally discredited by any and all American and international bodies connected with education or human rights is what beggars belief -- not Falk’s predictable blog posts.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’"